Breaking Bad spoilers ahead! Warning! Turn back, all ye who have yet to watch the finale and would like to remain in the dark!

Wes and I finished watching Breaking Bad last night. I was both excited for and nervous about the finale all day yesterday. How can something so well done also be so traumatic and difficult to watch? My goodness, the scene between Skyler and Marie where they’re fighting over the baby made me cry so much we had to turn the show off for a minute so I could get my act together.

Maybe I read too much. Maybe that’s the problem.

I read an article the other day summarizing a study on empathy. The psychologists who conducted the research posited that people who read literary fiction are more likely to be better at empathizing with others because literary fiction tends to make readers fill in the gaps (which is, I suppose, what you do when you empathize).

Granted, most of what I read is what’s known as “genre fiction,” where you find things like thrillers and mysteries. I’d say thrillers and mysteries comprise 80% of my literary diet, with some nonfiction thrown in for variety every once in awhile.

Regardless of my literary predilections, I have been a lifelong reader and I think that’s fostered a pretty fierce sense of empathy in me. When I watch TV, things aren’t happening to the characters. They’re happening to me. That’s not Jesse’s former girlfriend getting shot, it’s me, and I’m crying because now I’m Brock imagining what it’ll be like to wake up and find my mother murdered on the porch.

As you can imagine, then, a show like Breaking Bad was one big assault to my perhaps overly developed sense of empathy. By the end of the show, I was visibly distraught after watching every episode and I’m not ashamed one bit to admit I’m kind of glad it’s over.

Again I ask, how can something so brutal be so well done? Maybe that’s a naive question. I don’t suppose any show about a meth king pin could ever have been anything other than brutal if it was going to be done well. Likewise, I don’t think Walter’s story could have ended any other way though I would dearly have loved to see some sort of peace for Skyler at the end of it. Hey, what can I say, I’m a mother, she’s a mother, and it feels like she got the awful end of just about every bargain on that show.

Goodbye Breaking Bad. You were solid all the way through, and your writers had enough wisdom to shut you down before the story lines stopped making sense (ahem, The Shield, ahem). I can’t say I’ll miss you (I might spend the next couple nights watching fluffy bunnies napping just to cleanse my mental palate) but I’m pleased to have enjoyed you. Adios, compadre.

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